Other raptors at Starved Rock

Last Sunday, Arthur and I drove down to Starved Rock State Park for the 14th Annual Bald Eagle Watch. Although the Bald Eagles that winter at the Starved Rock Lock & Dam are the big draw, one of the highlights for me was a raptor awareness program by the World Bird Sanctuary. We attended the same program two years ago, but this time I enjoyed the program with a very different perspective.

Like last time, an exciting part of the program was free-flying raptors, swooping over the amazed crowd. This time, four birds flew for us: Harris Hawk; Eurasian Eagle Owl; American Kestrel; and Barn Owl. If I understand it correctly, many of the birds that WBS uses in programs are reared from hatching by the sanctuary, meaning they are extremely accustomed to humans. I guess the training process for these birds is different than that for older birds who come into education after an injury sustained while living wild and free.

Eurasian Eagle Owl
Eurasian Eagle Owl (possibly Bogart)

The program’s Bald Eagle, Liberty, came to the Sanctuary after sustaining permanent injuries as a juvenile wild bird in Florida. I was interested to learn that as a southern bird, Liberty is smaller than the average male Bald Eagle living up here in Illinois.

Bald Eagle
Liberty and handler Jennifer

I was really impressed that the program was put on by just two handlers, one of whom spoke the entire time while occasionally handling and flying birds across the room. The whole operation was really smooth and the program was filled with great information, extremely impressive and beautiful birds, and a lot of humor. Right on cue, Tsavo the Bataleur even took a bow as his portion of the program ended!

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